Circle Island Exploration – 7/12/2013

Kevin - tow survey

Towed surveyors

      Jurassic Park2

We have just finished two excellent days of exploration all around the island of Pagan. Yesterday we worked north from the western bays, and surveyed another black sand bay, much larger than the one we have worked the previous two days.

The turtle folks have been hiking, and their efforts not only gave them dehydrated and sore bodies, but also revealed good numbers of green and hawksbill turtles. The hikers move out to the cliffs overlooking good turtle habitat, and perch with binoculars looking for turtles surfacing for air. They have certainly been more successful than I, as I have yet to see a single turtle.

Jurassic ParkPagan volcano and east coast

This morning I took a turn surface towing behind the boat surveying for turtles. Apparently, one swam underneath me unseen, yet somehow I was able to spot about 15 new fish records from the survey… my turtle credentials are becoming suspect.quadrats

 

Dive boat by pinnaclesRob by arch

 

C. microrhinos

Chlorurus microrhinos – male with algae mustache

Amblyeleotris fasciata

Amblyeleotris fasciata with shrimp

The weather improvement was such that we were able to circumnavigate the island today, and survey beaches that would have been borderline suicidal three days ago. The coastline is simply stunning, as dramatic as any place I have been, rivaling Fijordland in New Zealand and the dramatic coasts of the Hawaiian Islands. Local fisherman have nicknamed the East / South East exposure “Jurassic Park” and the name seems apt.

Below water, the small bays were some of the healthiest reefs I have seen, in terms of coral cover, diversity, fish biodiversity and predator levels. Large jacks, snappers, small sharks and groupers all actively patrolled the bay’s labyrinth of canyons and arches, all scoured by the prevailing east / northeast weather patterns and storms that must rock this coastline on a regular basis.

south west coastsunset

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